David Talbot, the founder of Salon.com, has accomplished an amazing journalistic coup on his website today: In a breathless article entitled "Mean Girl
," Mr. Talbot reports the stunning
news that the Alaska politicians whom Sarah Palin has either directly beaten herself, or else has seen driven from public office for corruption, don't tend to like her very much!
Stop the presses! (In other stunning news, the sun rose this morning in the east, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.)
[# More #]Mr. Talbot's narrative begins with Gov. Palin's first run for mayor of Wasilla against incumbent John Stein. We're assured that ex-Mayor Stein is "an eminently reasonable and reflective man" — or so he appears to a San Francisco online journalist like Mr. Talbot, who doubtless spent many, many hours coming to know Stein intimately enough to vouch for him.
But according to Palin biographer (and Wasilla resident) Kaylene Johnson, while he originally was a popular mayor, Stein had ignored the sentiments of Wasilla residents who'd approved term limits in 1994, and he continued to take advantage of a loophole exempting incumbents (he'd been mayor since 1987). Palin had originally crossed Stein by voting against a pay increase for the mayor's position shortly after she was first elected as a city councilman in 1992; accordingly, in 1996, she campaigned against him with a promise that she would start trimming the city budget by taking a voluntary pay cut as mayor. (Which in fact she did.) She also promised to reduce property taxes. (Which in fact she did.) And she promised to promote new economic development that would increase the local tax base and permit higher levels of city services. (Which, again, she did.)
Mr. Talbot, relying on ex-Mayor Stein and his family and friends, ignores these issues and paints the 1996 mayoral campaign as being about personalities, biases, "whispering campaigns," and issues having nothing to do with city government — leading to the political birth of a terrible monster who devoured her original sponsor:
"I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water," Stein said, sounding more wearily ironic than bitter. "Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist."
Dear, me, break out the violins! Cue the orchestra! Poor, mistreated ex-Mayor Stein indeed lost the 1996 election by a vote of 651 to 440, so he decided to run against Sarah Palin again in 1999. Kaylene Johnson reports — and David Talbot and Salon.com omit to note — that given a second chance to choose between Stein and Palin, Wasilla residents re-elected Palin by a margin of 826 to 255.
But wait, there's more! To further his theme that "once a powerful patron becomes a major liability, Palin is quick to jettison him," Mr. Talbot brings us the sad story of former Alaska state representative Victor Kohring, who Talbot describes as "another key Palin supporter during her political rise in Mat-Su Valley." Talbot tells us that Kohring feels "betrayed" by Sarah Palin.
"He thinks she's an opportunist, pure and simple," reports Talbot of Kohring's views (as relayed through a friend), and "she didn't give him [i.e., Kohring] the time of day." Indeed, Sarah Palin "called on [Kohring] to resign his office," which he "regarded ... as a great insult, a personal betrayal." Oh, my!
This sad story might be a bit more moving, however, and Talbot's tale of Gov. Palin's turn-coat tendencies more persuasive, were former state representative Kohring's own present residence somewhere other than "the Taft minimum security prison outside Bakersfield, Calif."
He's serving his sentence on federal corruption charges — poor fellow.
Quick! More violins! Mr. Talbot needs the whole strings section, in fact! Play louder! Play more sadly! Sarah Palin is a meanie because she won't stick up for convicted felons.
On to Mr. Talbot's next witness, Andrew Halcro, who also furnishes the muckraking Mr. Talbot with juicy quotes (asterisks mine):
"The idea that Sarah shook up the state's old-boy network is one big fantasy, it's complete bulls**t," Halcro said. "She got all this public acclaim for throwing people who backed her under the bus — but she only did it after they became expendable, when she no longer needed them.
So who's Andrew Halcro? Oh, well, he's the extremely annoying know-it-all who finished a humiliating third, with 9 percent of the vote, behind Palin's 48 percent and Democratic former governor Tony Knowles' 41 percent in the 2006 gubernatorial general election. So do the facts support Halcro's assertion, or are these just more sour grapes?
I think you know what's coming, don't you? Orchestra, up and over! Crank the dials up to eleven! Hire John Williams and the entire Boston Pops!
Halcro only had the opportunity to run a distant third against her in the 2006 general election because by then, Sarah Palin had already broken from — and then soundly defeated in the GOP primary — one of Alaska's most powerful politicians, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski. She mounted that campaign from a position as a private citizen who was widely thought to have destroyed her own political career through her 2005 resignation from her position as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission in the Murkowski's administration to become a whistle-blower.
Here's a metaphor usage tip for Messrs. Halcro and Talbot: When someone has run as a massively underfunded underdog against a state's entrenched political structure, including its incumbent governor, and she wins despite all the odds against her, the proper metaphor isn't "throwing [anyone] under the bus." It's "assaulting the beaches at Normandy."
Mr. Talbot ends his exciting work of investigative journalism with a rhetorical question, again mouthed by the soundly defeated Andrew Halcro: "So where's the new era of change that Palin supposedly brought to Alaska?"
It's true enough that Gov. Palin hasn't yet been able to oppose and defeat every single ethically challenged GOP politician in Alaska, since she can't simultaneously be Governor of Alaska, U.S. Representative from Alaska, and
both U.S. Senators from Alaska. No, in addition to defeating incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, she's merely driven the head of the Alaska Republican Party from his appointed public office and helped force the resignation of the former state attorney-general.
But this rhetorical question shows Halcro to be disingenuous, and Talbot to be either ignorant or disingenuous or both, about what has actually happened in Alaska since the 2006 election. Among other accomplishments —
- Gov. Palin has taken symbolic but nevertheless important steps toward fiscal responsibility such as selling the corporate jet Murkowski had purchased over legislative opposition, re-assigning the Governor's Mansion's executive chef, and driving herself to work.
- She's imposed substantive fiscal discipline — despite overflowing state coffers and the spending temptations that presents — by using her line-item veto to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in pork from the state budget, and she's made those vetoes stick.
- She's led the state legislature to enact a completely revamped state severance tax on oil and gas extracted from Alaska (mis-labeled by some as a "windfall profits tax"), replacing a cozy and widely distrusted version that the Murkowski administration had negotiated with the major energy companies who represent the corporate status quo.
- And she's gotten the legislative groundwork laid, and an international contract signed, for a multi-billion dollar competitively-bid contract for the construction of a cross-state natural gas pipeline that will not only address Alaskans' own needs for affordable energy but also bring Alaska's plentiful reserves to hungry markets in the Lower 48 states.
These accomplishments explain Gov. Sarah Palin's stratospheric popularity ratings among her constituents — save and except for a small minority of Alaskans who take their cues from sore losers like Halcro and Stein or felons like Kohring.
And gosh: It turns out that all this sad, "wearily ironic" music from Mr. Talbot can actually be played on the world's smallest violin.